In a print book, the Table of Contents includes page numbers so the user can manually flip to that page. In an ebook, the Table of Contents tends to be linked. There are generally no set "pages" in an ebook since the user can make the font larger and smaller and therefore impact the number of pages. The functionality of an ebook's Table of Contents relies on it allowing the user to quickly jump to a section by clicking on that section's title.
The example on the right is from my Low Carb Charts book. You can see the main section headings, such as Food Carb Charts. Then you see the sub-sections, such as Beans and Berries. That way if someone needs to look up the carb values for fruits, they can easily go directly there.
Microsoft Office Word
Word lets you easily and automatically generate a table of contents, which is great because it means as you add and delete content to your book or ebook you don't have to manually change all the page numbers. You just tell Word to regenerate the list for you.
First, usually on page 3 after your title page and your copyright page, make a blank page. This is where your Table of Contents is going to go. Then in Word go to References - Table of Contents - Automatic Table 1. Voila. You'll now have a table of contents on this page.
In the rest of your document, usually you would have already used Heading 1 and Heading 2 to categorize your main level and sub level titles. This lets you easily set the style for your entire document and change it whenever you want to. These same headings are automatically used for your table of contents! If you haven't used Heading 1 and Heading 2 for your main and sub headings, do a quick sweep and tag those now. All you have to do is select the title text, and then click on Heading 1 on the main "home" tab. It's quick and easy. You can customize those headings to look any way you wish.
Once you've got all your section headings tagged, go back to your Table of Contents. Right click on it and then choose "Update Field". POOF your table of contents are now completely accurate with all your section tags. You'll want to do this any time you add a bunch of new pages to your document.
At some point in the future if you want just the list but no page numbers - for example if you are saving this file as a Kindle ebook file - then what you do is first select the Table of Contents. Press ALT-F9 to show the base code that is generating the Table of Contents. Then add a \N to the list of codes. \N means to leave off the page numbers.
To edit how your table of contents looks, you will be modifying the "style" associated with TOC1, for example. So go into References - Table of Contents - Insert Table of Contents - and you'll get to a dialogue box that shows you the current settings and lets you modify them.
PDF Files and Table of Contents
Note that this table of contents is automatically hyperlinked when you save this as a PDF file. So any PDF file you make using this system will have a hot-linked table of contents for you to use.
EPub / Mobi / Kindle Files and Table of Contents
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!!
It used to be that you did NOT want an "inline" document-based table of contents page in Kindle and other ebooks. These systems have a built-in table of contents entry (called a NCX entry) which one accesses by pressing a physical table of contents button (or software link). This chapter listing is separate from the visible in-book table of contents page that you'd make in Word. So the old wisdom was to not create an inline table of contents page in your ebook version. The NCX data took care of that.
Here's an example of how a MOBI file is constructed. This is a short story of mine, River Jordan. There are in essence four chapters in the story plus its title page. You can see those sections on the top left. The other sections of the MOBI contain its basic font information and any images. In the bottom left you can see the other supporting files including the NCX. So that NCX table of contents isn't "inline" in my story. I didn't make it in Word. It's a separate file that is accessed by devices that use this MOBI file.
I know this can be confusing so I'll clarify further. I have a book on Low Carb Charts which, like most reference books, has an inline table of contents in the beginning of the book. So this is the Amazon Kindle reader showing that book. You can see how there's the copyright page and then the next page, inline, created by Word, is the table of contents. That is an actual part of the Word document and an actual physical page in that book. See how the "page location" at the bottom says you're at the beginning of the book?
Now look at the menu in the top. There is a Table of Contents button there. That takes you to the GENERATED NCX file. This is created by the MOBI generator. This is traditionally located at the BACK of the ebook. You can see when you click that button that you're taken to an entirely different location, which is at the very back.
Some authors were confused by how to build this NCX and just left it off, meaning their ebooks had no table of contents at all. Readers who pushed the "table of contents" button went nowhere at all. It was grayed out. And, again, most authors who DID generate that NCX put it at the back of the book, since it was available with a button-click anyway. It didn't matter where in the book it resided, since the table of contents button leapt you to its location. And by putting the table of contents at the back, it stayed out of the way.
Everything was fine ... UNTIL ...
As of September 2016 Amazon support says it will require all ebooks to have a NCX table of contents AT THE FRONT OF THE BOOK. The reason for this involves their pay-per-page-read Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. Their system is incredibly flawed. The concept of KU is that an author gets paid a set amount (let's say half a cent) per page read. However, because of the way Amazon's page-read tracking program works, they only track the DEEPEST PAGE READ by the reader. That means if the reader leaps to the last page of the book the author gets credit for the reader reading every single page in the book. Therefore Amazon doesn't want a table of contents at the end. A reader who pushes the "TOC" button to go to the table of contents has, in essence, leapt to the back of the book and now the entire book has credit for being read.
Instead of fixing that problem, Amazon is forcing ALL authors to move their table of contents to the front of the book and reload their books. Since Calibre is the software-of-choice for many authors, and Calibre automatically put the table of contents at the END of the book, it means thousands upon thousands of authors now have to redo and reload their books.
Not only is this a royal hassle, but the whole underlying problem still exists. Many people who read mysteries like to leap to the last chapter, find out "who done it," and then start at the beginning. So every reader who does that now gives the book credit for an entire read even though the book might then be abandoned after a few pages. That means that mystery books, where this tends to happen, will get a far larger "share of the pie" of available revenue than other books.
So I would really hope that Amazon would fix their software to PROPERLY count how many pages a reader has read rather than simply counting the DEEPEST page a reader has gone to. In the meantime, though, all authors should make a concerted effort to reload their books with the TOC in the front lest they have their book yanked by Amazon for violating their new book requirements.
Amazon is also grumpy with the authors who chose not to have any NCX table of contents at all. Generating a book with no NCX meant the table of contents button was "broken" and took the reader nowhere. Amazon wants a consistent user experience. They want every book to have an active table of contents so the user knows they can always press the table of contents button and go to a table of contents.
It's important to note that as recently as March 2016 Amazon was saying IT WAS FINE to have the NCX TOC at the back of the book. They said that simply having the TOC at the back was not a violation of their policy - that they were trying to block spammers from misusing links to force readers to go to the end of the book (and therefore give them full-read-credit for their book).
https://kdp.amazon.com/community/ann.jspa?annID=991: "That said, absent any other issues of quality, locating the TOC at the end of a book is not in itself outside of our guidelines."
And also on Amazon's own instructions, as of September 16, 2016, they say it's RECOMMENDED but not REQUIRED to have the TOC at the front:
https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A140JEYVI0P8KQ: "Tip: To avoid interrupting the customerís reading progress, we recommend placing it at the front of the book."
So Amazon is going against its own statements and documentation by telling an author they are now REQUIRED to move their NCX TOC to the front of the book.
And I want to reiterate, again, that none of this has anything to do with the inline TOC you generate in Word. That physical table of contents is fine anywhere, because you don't leap to it. Most people do put the inline TOC in the front if they have one at all. Amazon doesn't care about that. What they care about is where you leap to when you press that "table of contents" button or link on your Kindle reader or app. So they care about the NCX location.
HOW TO CHECK THIS
Checking this NCX table of contents issue is very easy. Open your Kindle device, your Kindle app, or the online Kindle cloud reader. Now within that program open up your ebook. Go to the menu button. Click on the table of contents link in that menu. If that link is greyed out you have a serious problem. You have no NCX table of contents at all. Amazon considers this a serious flaw. You need to add one pronto!
If you do have the ability to click at least you're on the right track. Click that table of contents button. It must take you to a complete, accurate table of contents listing at the BEGINNING of your book. You'll see in your progress bar at the bottom of the screen your location. If it's at the beginning you're all set. If you're now at the end of the book you're in trouble. You'll need to fix that.
Feel free to ask with any questions. If you use Calibre or another package that by default puts that TOC at the end, youíll need to regenerate your books, making sure to change that default setting so it puts the TOC at the front, and reload them. I feel your pain. I have to reload over three hundred books.
What if you have a special situation where you CANNOT have your table of contents entries neatly defined with Heading 1 / Heading 2 types of styles? For example, while it's easy enough to tag:
with a style and use that properly in your table of contents, what if instead your chosen chapter heading reads like this:
If you tried to tag that as a heading, then the entry in your table of contents would also be one letter on each line which would make your table of contents incredibly hard to use.
Because this is a trickier situation, I'll cover it separately.
Table of Contents - Special Layout
Parts of a Book - Overview
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